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Posted by on Jul 28, 2008 in Politics | 17 comments

Is Congress Obama’s Weak Spot?

smaug.jpgIt was a cold, drizzly day in Laketown as Bard, descendent of Girion of Dale, lifted his bow toward the flying figure of the great fire-drake, Smaug. The dragon was covered in jeweled armor from nose to tip of tail, impervious to arrow or spear, but Bard had found a bare spot on the beast’s belly where the plating had fallen away. He launched his arrow skyward, striking the drake in its vitals and sending it crashing into the waters of the lake below. So ended Smaug, last of the great fire breathing dragons who had previously been thought undefeatable.

It seems appropriate to ponder a make believe setting such as Middle Earth this morning, as I find myself about to quote William Kristol, who I frequently consider to be living in a fantasy world. But today he may be on to something. Just as Bard found the weak spot on the dragon, Kristol thinks he may have found the hole in Obama’s armor which John McCain can exploit.

Given the unpopularity of the current Democratic Congress, given Americans’ tendency to prefer divided government, given the voters’ repudiations of the Republicans in 2006 and of the Democrats in 1994 — isn’t the prospect of across-the-board, one-party Democratic governance more likely to move votes to McCain than to Obama?

John McCain spent much of the last week hitting swing states with a message of progressive energy and economic policies. The latest three day averaged Gallup Polls, however, seem to indicate that Obama’s armor remains strong, opening up a nine point national lead after he rode Messiah One, skipping around the power centers of Europe. Perhaps Kristol sees something here. I can vividly remember explaining to friends how I felt that our government worked best when the two parties were forced to work with (or even against) each other. When one party gets control of both the legislative and executive branches, they tend to run wild, straight off the rails, like kids cut loose in a candy shop. The earlier portion of this decade when the Republicans held that position should be more than enough of a lesson, and the current Congress already has approval ratings in the single digits.

Personally, I do not believe that the Democrats will come out of the November elections with a veto-proof majority in either house, but barring a major, rapid sea change, the GOP will almost certainly be arguing from the cheap seats. Kristol goes on to note how the public may find some appeal in this line of argument and McCain – if his team is smart – will seek to exploit it.

McCain will then assert that if you don’t like the Congress in which Senator Obama serves in the majority right now, you really should be alarmed about a President Obama rubber-stamping the deeds of a Democratic Congress next year. A President McCain, on the other hand, could check Congressional appetites — as well as work across the aisle with a Democratic Congress in a bipartisan spirit where appropriate.

If Team McCain can’t come up with a positive strategy to convince Americans he is the right man for the job – rather than simply sounding the alarm that Obama is the wrong man – perhaps it is time to get away from the whole attack mode and try this new strategy. Our government dove too far to the right under iron-clad GOP control. Will we be better off if we turn around and let them swing equally off to the left?

(Painting by John Howe)
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